A couple of years ago, I looked at the NYC Marathon and I realized that I could circumvent the lottery and qualify for an entry with a good half-marathon time. I have wanted to do this marathon since I lived in NYC in the early 90ís. The true benefit of qualifying is that I was able to get a really good number and start up in the front of the Womenís start. NYC is not normally a good marathon to use to try to qualify for Boston (also on my list of cool things to do), but I figured that if I got a good start and didnít have to walk the first mile to get through the crowd, I would have a pretty good shot. I donít like marathoning enough to keep doing them to try to improve my time. I figured that if Boston was in the cards for me that it was going to have to be now.
Getting to the start is probably more complicated than most marathons, but not really a big deal. I caught the subway at 6:00am and took it to the Staten Island Ferry for the 6:30am ferry. Shuttle busses then took everyone over to the staging area where all 39,000 of us hung out. We were separated into three different groups at the start, including my Orange Womenís wave, so I guess my wave had about 13,000 or so. It didnít seem that crowded. The corrals started getting organized around 9:30am for the 10:10am start, but I was busy checking my bag with the UPS folks. I didnít make it to the bridge until 9:55am and got to where I wanted to be with my corral at 10:05am. Pretty stressful, but it gave me something to think about besides the task at hand. Note to anyone out there: Donít hang out with me before a race if you want to get there early and relax. I seem to be incapable of doing that.
Mary Wittenberg, the race director for the past several years, had a moment of silence for Ryan Shay who died the day before while running in the Menís Olympic trials. That was pretty sobering considering what we were about to do. It started to sink in that I was going to get to run over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and do a race that I had wanted to do for almost 20 years. That was very cool. Shortly after the national anthem, the howitzer went off and so did we! I was probably 1500 or so racers back from the start and there wasnít any pushing or shoving, just everyone moving together pretty quickly. Too quickly for me.
My plan was to run at a consistent, 8:30 pace. That would put me in at about 3:42 and leave me with a little cushion for the 3:50 I needed for Boston. The route through Brooklyn and Queens was very cool. There were spectators 5 deep for most of the way.
All three waves met at the 8 mile mark. Even though it looked like a mob on TV, I never felt like I was in anyoneís way and I didnít feel like I had to dodge and weave to get around anyone.
At the halfway point I was holding my pace at 8:25. At mile 15 the course leaves Queens and enters Manhattan via the Queensboro Bridge. It was long and it was steep, but Manhattan was on the other side and I knew that the crowd on First Ave was supposed to be the wildest on the course, so that kept me going. Coming off the bridge was very fun. The crowd was huge and they were screaming like they were at a rock concert.
I slowed down a little, but still held the 8:30 pace past 103rd street where I saw my husband and friendís husband who was there to watch his wife. We high-fived and I knew I looked fine and that Jim could tell I was on track. That was about 18.5 miles. Jim ran a couple of blocks west to catch us again at mile 23. Oh, my how things can change in 4.5 miles!!!
To make what is becoming a very long story short, I held it together until mile 20 and then the wheels started to come off. I didnít hit the wall exactly, but my feet were beginning to cramp up pretty bad. I imagined that if I took my shoes off that they would curl into a ball. Fortunately, they went numb soon after that, so all I had to do was keep throwing them forward and catching myself before my face hit pavement. I repeated this about five thousand times at a 9:30 pace and made my BQ with a whopping 30 seconds to spare!
I was sooooooo happy at the finish, but I did want to throw up. It reminded me of my wedding. Several medical volunteers asked me how I was doing and seemed to follow me even after I said that I felt fine. I guess they could tell from my ďfineĒ that I wasnít really fine. One medic decided to walk with me to the food and blanket line until she was satisfied that I was not going to keel over, which fortunately I did not. It took me about 40 minutes to walk the 10 blocks from the finish to the UPS truck to the family reunion area, where I was met by my husband. He didnít know my final time and was very concerned when he got the runner alert at mile 25 that my pace had slowed to 8:42 overall. He thought I needed an 8:40. We met up with some friends a little later and went for a large steak dinner right down the street from the hotel.
I would recommend the New York City Marathon to anyone who wants a big city, big feel marathon. My husband said that if he walked one block off the marathon route, you wouldnít even know a race was going on. Thatís what I love about New York. It can handle anything and make it look easy.